It is hard to realise that this idyllic part of rural Derbyshire once harboured a group of men who in desperation tried to form an association along the lines of a self-help union. They were driven to this by the conditions of the time, two hundred years ago when rising prices of even the most basic commodities, such as flour, were leading to mass starvation. In desperation they planned to march on London and overthrow the government, a doomed plan that led to the execution of three of their ringleaders and transportation or imprisonment for others.
This walk follows part of the route taken by the rebels. They were on their way to Ripley where they planned to persuade others to join their march as far as Nottingham. Here they hoped to make their case to the local authorities, but unbeknown to them an agent provocateur had inveigled himself into their numbers, encouraging them to even more illegal acts. As a result many of the group were arrested, with three of the ringleaders sentenced to the cruel medieval punishment of being hung drawn and quartered – a sentence later commuted to hanging and beheading as it was thought to be less cruel! Fourteen were transported to the colonies and six served sentences in local jails.
Many of the places visited or lived in by the rebels are marked by a series of plaques, each with a brief description of what once stood there. With the exception of the Dog Inn and the Butterley Ironworks post house, all the old buildings have been demolished and modern houses built on the site.
While the walk covers countryside which would still be recognised by the rebels. Because they went on towards Ripley, only the first part of the walk, as far as Butterley Ironworks, is included. Starting, like those rebels, at the Dog Inn in Pentrich, the route follows Asher Lane towards the A38, a road which certainly would not be recognised by them as it did not exist in their day. Turning back at the ironworks, our walk follows the line of the long abandoned canal, which would have been very much in use in 1817. Modern walkers have to climb a steep flight of steps in order to reach the A610, another road that didn’t exist two hundred years ago. This road has superseded the old road through Buckland Hollow to Ripley, and now ends abruptly, cut off by the A38 a little way beyond the site of the old Queen’s Head pub. What was once a busy main road has now reverted to a quiet side road through very pleasant countryside.
The Excavator pub comes about half way along the walk, prior to following the old Chesterfield road. Alongside this old road are the sites of now demolished buildings which the rebels visited, or in one case hid. Opposite the old flour mill, a footpath climbs up and then wanders through a series of fields. Their thorn-hedged boundaries are crossed by often difficult stiles. On reaching Pentrich’s ancient Saint Matthew’s Church where some of the rebels hid, a short walk through the churchyard leads down the road and the Dog Inn.
The Walk :
From the Dog Inn (see plaque on the wall nearest the main road), follow the pavement along Asher Lane in the direction of Ripley.
Ignore a side road going left and walk past the driveway to Asherfields Farm. (Note the plaque marking the original site of the barn where the rebels convened).
Go under the A38 and immediately turn left along a concrete track.
Within sight of a large modern house, go to its right along a path bordered by old railway sleepers.
When the path reaches the Midland Railway Society track at its Hammersmith terminus, cross the line (listen for approaching trains), and follow a signposted path through bushes, down to a rough road beside a factory.
Walk along the dam-top of the naturalised reservoir that once served the Cromford Canal.
At the far end of the dam take the second lane on your left – ‘the Coach Road’ and follow it up to Derby Road.
Turn left along the pavement of Derby Road for about 100 yards to view the octagonal post room of the old Butterley Ironworks (marked by a plaque).
Little remains of the historic Butterley Ironworks except the post room, one or two old buildings and the outer stone walls of huge smelters. A modern housing estate now occupies the site of the place where the supporting ribs for St Pancras Station’s canopy and the innovative Falkirk Wheel were made.
Retrace your steps back to the Coach Road, following it past the reservoir turning and as far as the lane’s junction with Asher Lane.
Turn right along Asher Lane and go back towards and then under the A38.
Immediately after the bridge, turn left along a signposted footpath roughly parallel to the A38.
Where the path divides bear left and drop down to the tow path of the abandoned canal.
At the far end where the canal is interrupted by the busy A610, climb the steep flight of steps up to the road and turn right along the pavement.
Reaching a bus shelter, cross the road with care and go down a surfaced path starting at another bus shelter.
Turn right along the old road, through the scattering of houses at Lower Hartshay.
Turn left opposite the George Inn and follow the side lane as far as a second group of cottages. Where the lane begins to rise turn right along a signposted path through meadowland. Here once again you are following the line of the Cromford Canal.
Reaching two connected ponds, the remains of abandoned turning places for canal barges, go forwards under a canal bridge and follow the dried out remains of the canal until it reaches a stile next to a field gate.
Go through the stile and across the Excavator pub car park in order to reach the main road and turn right.
Cross the road at the traffic lights and turn left along the B6013 (Chesterfield Road). Although there were buildings around here that featured in the rebellion story, none now remain; even the Devonshire Arms at Pentrich Lane End is being converted into housing.
Look out for a cast-iron road marker, part hidden by the hedge opposite Pentrich Lane End, it dates from 1760. Bear left with the main road.
Walk on for about two hundred yards as far as an old corn mill now converted into apartments. A plaque on its wall commemorates the site of another now disappeared nearby building where one of the rebels hid.
Turn right at the mill and cross the road to follow the signposted path climbing beside a large modern house.
Beyond the house the path curves left, uphill across the first of six fields. Cross hedge boundaries by what are rather difficult stiles. Look out for waymarks to keep to the correct path.
Reaching the fifth field, bear slightly right as far as the sixth and cross this to reach a stone wall surrounding the churchyard.
Follow the path past the ancient church (where some of the rebels hid), and go down steps to reach the road through Pentrich village. The Dog Inn is to your right and to your left are houses and the village hall, all bearing plaques denoting the names of the original buildings that stood on the site.